Seattle - The Seattle Symphony today announced that Board Chair Leslie Jackson Chihuly has made a $2.5 million gift to the Seattle Symphony to create the Leslie Jackson Chihuly Chair, endowing the Symphony's executive leadership position in perpetuity.
Simultaneously with this announcement, the Symphony also announced that Executive Director Simon Woods will take the new title of President and CEO, in recognition of his significant achievements since his arrival in 2011.
Leslie Chihuly commented: “My six years as Board Chair of this organization has been a labor of love. The Symphony is the jewel in the crown of Seattle’s arts organizations, and its incredible success in the past four years has been evident for all to see. I’m honored beyond words to have been Chair through this period, and to have served not only the Symphony, but also this city that I love so much. Since the day Simon arrived in Seattle, he has been my partner in the quest to make the Seattle Symphony one of America’s most forward-thinking and dynamic orchestras, and it seemed fitting, as I contemplated a major gift to the organization, for me to name this vital position.”
“Leslie’s vision and passion for the Seattle Symphony was a decisive factor in my decision to come here four years ago” commented Woods. “For an executive leader of a major arts organization there is no more critical relationship than with the Chair. Leslie is a remarkable person and an extraordinary force for good. She motivates all those around her with positive energy, and she has imbued our organization with an affirmative spirit that drives us constantly forward. It is my hope that others will follow Leslie in helping us build long term financial foundations that will allow the Symphony to thrive, innovate and grow over the long term. But in the meantime, she has my deepest thanks for her generosity, and for this immense gesture of confidence in the organization and in me.”
The Seattle Symphony’s endowment, which is managed by the Seattle Symphony Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 with its own Board of Directors, is currently valued at $25 million. “The Seattle Symphony has by far the smallest endowment of its peer group” explained Woods. “Leslie’s gift forms part of our ongoing efforts to at least triple the size of the endowment over the coming years, through the endowing of key positions in the orchestra and our extensive programs serving young people and the community.”
As President and CEO of Chihuly Studio and Chihuly Workshop, Leslie Jackson Chihuly’s primary role is to ensure ongoing organizational strength to assist Dale Chihuly in realizing his vision, encompassing all aspects of his art, from unique large-scale commissions to museum exhibitions, individual artworks and editions.
Leslie works to balance the creative energy and unique needs of an artist’s studio with the realities of managing a business with many employees while serving clients, galleries and museums worldwide. Leslie strives to position the Studio and Workshop for long-term success, creating and supporting an international legacy of compelling art experiences for the public.
Leslie joined Chihuly Studio in 1994 as Project Director of Chihuly Over Venice, a five-country, two-year art project, which concluded in Venice, Italy, and was followed by an internationally-aired public television production.
Currently in her tenth year on the Seattle Symphony Board and in her sixth year as Chair, Leslie has led the organization through a period of significant change, including the hiring of Music Director Ludovic Morlot, and President and CEO Simon Woods. During this leadership transition, Leslie worked to reposition a treasured civic organization, while establishing integrity, transparency, collaboration and excellence at all levels. She revitalized the Board of Directors, created innovative fundraising events, raised the public profile and has positioned the organization to embark on a major five-year fundraising campaign to sustain the Seattle Symphony for future generations.
She is currently on the Board of the Pilchuck Glass School and has chaired fundraising campaigns for the University of Washington Masters of Fine Arts program in glass, The Hope Heart Institute and the Viola Chihuly Fund, and has worked with the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Symphony on family-oriented arts events. The Chihulys are involved with numerous non-profit and philanthropic organizations both locally and nationally with a focus on health, education, music and the arts including JDRF, SIFF, Mary’s Place, Hilltop Artists in Residence, Seniors Making Art and the Seattle Public Schools. Together they founded the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation in order to inspire and educate the public regarding all forms of art, and to provide support to artists and arts organizations. In 2011 she was awarded the “Women of Influence” Award by the Puget Sound Business Journal.
Leslie graduated from Vassar College with a BA in English. She holds a master’s degree in International Studies from the Henry M. Jackson School at the University of Washington. Leslie and Dale have one son.
Simon Woods came to Seattle in May 2011. Together with Music Director Ludovic Morlot, he has been instrumental in defining and executing a vision to take the Seattle Symphony to the next stage in its artistic development, and establish it as a dynamic, forward-looking and community-focused organization. Woods’ previous post was Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), one of the United Kingdom’s leading symphony orchestras. Prior to his time at the RSNO, Woods was President and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Vice President of Artistic Planning and Operations at The Philadelphia Orchestra. For almost a decade from the late 1980s to late 1990s he worked as a record producer with EMI Classics in London, where he initiated and produced recordings with many of the world’s foremost classical artists and ensembles.
Born in London, Simon Woods has a degree in Music from Cambridge University, and a post-graduate diploma in conducting from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Woods, his wife Karin, and their two children, Barnaby and Isabel, live in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood. He is a Board member of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Founded in 1903, the Seattle Symphony is one of America’s leading symphony orchestras and is internationally acclaimed for its innovative programming and extensive recording history. Under the leadership of Music Director Ludovic Morlot since September 2011, the Symphony is heard live from September through July by more than 300,000 people. It performs in one of the finest modern concert halls in the world — the acoustically superb Benaroya Hall — in downtown Seattle. Its extensive education and community-engagement programs reach over 100,000 children and adults each year. The Seattle Symphony has a deep commitment to new music, commissioning many works by living composers each season, including John Luther Adams’ recent Become Ocean, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2015 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. The orchestra has made more than 140 recordings and has received 18 Grammy nominations, two Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades. In 2014 the Symphony launched its in-house recording label, Seattle Symphony Media.
Rosalie Contreras, Vice President of Communications
You You Xia, Public Relations Manager
Photo Credits: Brandon Patoc Photography, courtesy of Leslie Chihuly, Ron Wurzer